Monthly Archives: August 2007

Review: Harmon and Gross, The Scientific Literature

August 20, 2007
By
Review: Harmon and Gross, The Scientific Literature

Last week’s edition of Nature carried an interesting review of Joseph E. Harmon and Alan G. Gross’s The Scientific Literature: A Guided Tour. As Nature’s Steven Shapin explains, Harmon and Gross’s fascinating new book delivers a unique historical account of scientific knowledge that focuses not on the facts, but the various rhetorical strategies scientists have used to report them: Today, few scientists consider themselves to be rhetoricians. How many even know the meaning of anaphora, antimetabole or litotes? But it’s not that simple. The scientific literature reports, but it also aims to persuade readers that what it reports is reliable and significant. And the arts of persuasion are inevitably literary and, specifically, rhetorical. It is an arduously learned skill to write in the way that Nature deems acceptable. Conventions of scientific writing have changed enormously over the past few centuries and even over recent decades. The very big differences between Jane Austen’s Persuasion and a scientific paper lie in the different patterns of rhetoric used in the latter, not in their absence from it. There are now many historical and sociological studies of scientific communication. Joseph Harmon and Alan Gross’s book, The Scientific Literature, is something different—neither a research monograph . . .

Read more »

Friday remainders

August 17, 2007
By
Friday remainders

Robert Hariman, co-author of No Caption Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture, and Liberal Democracy, was quoted at length in an interesting article posted to the New York Times City Room blog. The article focuses on the social significance Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famous photograph of an exuberant sailor planting a kiss on a nurse in the heart of Times Square on V-J day 1945. Marking the 62nd anniversary of the kiss, about 75 people turned up in Times Square on Tuesday to re-enact the event. Hariman delivers an interesting discussion of this phenomenon and the lasting imapct of this iconic image in American culture. Also read an excerpt from Hariman’s book. Marshal Zeringue who authors the literary blog The Page 99 Test, asked Barbara Maria Stafford, author of Echo Objects: The Cognitive Work of Images, to apply the test to her book. The test requires authors to open to page 99 of their book and and write a brief synopsis of the contents of that page. Stafford’s response delves into a fascinating discussion of the conscious and unconscious effects of images. Kevin Rozario, author of the The Culture of Calamity: Disaster and the Making of Modern America, recently discussed his book on . . .

Read more »

Liam Rector (1949-2007)

August 17, 2007
By
Liam Rector (1949-2007)

The New York Times brought the sad news this morning that Liam Rector, distinguished poet and educator, committed suicide on Wednesday morning at his home in Greenwich Village at the age of 57. According to his bio posted at Poets.org, Rector “was born in Washington, D.C., in 1949. He received an M.A. from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University and an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.” “Rector taught at Columbia University, The New School, Emerson College, George Mason University, and elsewhere. He founded and directed the graduate Writing Seminars at Bennington College, and administered literary programs at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Academy of American Poets.” “His books of poems include The Executive Director of the Fallen World, American Prodigal and The Sorrow of Architecture. His work has also appeared in a variety of distinguished literary publications including Agni, Paris Review, American Poetry Review, Boston Review, and Ploughshares.” His contributions to the literary community will be sorely missed. . . .

Read more »

Getting along in Iraq

August 16, 2007
By
Getting along in Iraq

The United States Army’s Instructions for American Servicemen in Iraq during World War II has been drawing quite a bit of attention this week. With two reviews in the Washington Post, a web-exclusive article on MSNBC’s Newsweek website, and a discussion about the book with Lt. Colonel John Nagl, (author of the new foreword), posted to Dwight Garner’s Paper Cuts blog at the New York Times, this small handbook has everyone wondering why it wasn’t discovered sooner. Originally issued to soldiers serving in Iraq during WWII, the book contains both practical and diplomatic advice that, to many, seems highly relevant to the current conflict in Iraq. Columnist Al Kamen writes for the Washington Post: As the war in Iraq drags on, some folks talk about wishing everyone knew in 2003 what we know now. Turns out, we did. The surprise hit book of this summer may well be a 44-pager by an unknown War Department writer in 1943 titled: Instructions for American Servicemen in Iraq During World War II. On the very first page, we learn that “American success or failure in Iraq may well depend on whether the Iraqis (as the people are called) like American soldiers or not. . . .

Read more »

The high cost of America’s aging infrastructure

August 15, 2007
By
The high cost of America’s aging infrastructure

With the recent bridge collapse in Minneapolis many have turned their attention to the problems posed by America’s aging infrastructure. A potential sinkhole for millions of taxpayer’s dollars, the cost of fixing roads, bridges, and other public works sometimes acts to prevent essential repairs from being made, and may result in tragedy. But according to Barry B. LePatner, author of the forthcoming Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets: How to Fix America’s Trillion-Dollar Construction Industry, providing a safe and well-maintained infrastructure does not have to mean wasting the taxpayer’s money. In an article last Sunday for the Boston Globe LePatner argues that by consolidating a fragmented industry into larger “national construction powerhouses” the business of construction could become much more efficient: The modern construction business hasn’t changed significantly since the first steel-frame skyscrapers began to rise in the early 1900s. Early tall buildings such as the Tribune Tower in Chicago and the Woolworth Building in New York grew too complex to remain under the purview of a single ‘master builder,’ the architect who knew and supervised every detail of the project. Instead, each required an assembly of specialists—electricians, plumbers, heating contractors, excavators. Dozens, then hundreds of companies arose to handle those systems, . . .

Read more »

Review: Fine, Authors of the Storm

August 14, 2007
By
Review: Fine, Authors of the Storm

Last Friday’s Chronicle of Higher Education carried a nice piece on sociologist Gary Allen Fine’s latest book, Authors of the Storm: Meteorologists and the Culture of Prediction. Reviewer Nina C. Ayoub delivers a concise synopsis of Fine’s inside account of the cultural and social influences affecting the science of meteorology: Combining theory with a shop-floor view, Mr. Fine describes how the forecasters do their “futurework,” under a range of bureaucratic and time constraints. While machines abound, data are not simply registered and reported but interpreted and massaged. Meteorologists defend their job as a blend of art and science in which intuition may trump the best software. Or as one forecaster joked: “The real atmosphere has great difficulty simulating the modeled atmosphere, which has ruined a number of good forecasts.” Forecasting, he also shows, is a social process. No forecast is created anew. Instead, each shift looks at what it has “inherited,” and issues of collegiality can shape whether predictions are changed, tweaked, or left alone, assuming no dramatic demands by the climate.… Language is a frequently contested issue, between, for example, a “partly sunny” optimist and a “partly cloudy” pessimist, or between forecasters who favor such evocative terms as . . .

Read more »

Professor or Baseball?

August 13, 2007
By
Professor or Baseball?

Would you rather chair your university department or manage an amateur softball team? Edwin Amenta, NYU professor of sociology and author of Professor Baseball: Searching for Redemption and the Perfect Lineup on the Softball Diamonds of Central Park, was pretty sure he’d enjoy the softball team a lot more. In an interesting piece of commentary for the careers section of the Chronicle of Higher Education Amenta relates how he was passed over for departmental chair but then was given the opportunity to spend the summer as manager of the Performing Arts Softball League. But as it turns out Amenta got a little more than he bargained for. Amenta writes: Near the end of the season, I realized that not only was managing not that much fun, it was not greatly different from being a department chair. Both jobs provide an undercurrent of excitement, with little crises to attend to all the time. Sometimes there are important general managerial decisions to make—like deciding which players or faculty members to recruit. But the rest of the work is extensive and thankless. It takes great effort to get teammates and colleagues to do things they should volunteer for, like practicing or serving on . . .

Read more »

John Nagl on NPR

August 10, 2007
By
John Nagl on NPR

Lieutenant Col. John A. Nagl was featured yesterday on NPR’s All Things Considered to discuss the recent re-publication of the U. S. Army’s Instructions for American Servicemen in Iraq during World War II. Nagl—who wrote the forward to the new edition—joins host Michele Norris to discuss the valuable lessons to be found in this small advice manual issued to soldiers serving in Iraq more than 60 years ago; advice which Nagl argues is still very much relevant today. In his interview, Nagl laments the fact that the army had not heeded some of this advice before the current counterinsurgency operations began in 2003, and encourages the adoption of some of the book’s suggestions in the context of the United States’ current efforts to win Iraqi hearts and minds. Navigate to the NPR website to listen to archived audio of the show as well as read an illustrated excerpt from the book. . . .

Read more »

Review: Richet, A Natural History of Time

August 9, 2007
By
Review: Richet, A Natural History of Time

Last Sunday the Los Angeles Times ran an interesting review of Pascal Richet’s new book, A Natural History of Time. Applauding some of the many rich details included in this fascinating story of mankind’s endeavors to construct a chronology, Times review editor Sara Lippincott writes: begins with early myths, stories humans told themselves to make sense of their world. These myths were “outside of time,” he writes, “because nature, above all, is governed by cycles” and “neither beginning nor end can be discerned.” The Egyptians, for example, counted years in cycles, starting with each new reign. Speaking of the Egyptians, one of the entrancing nuggets in this nugget-studded book is the information that their hours “varied in duration according to the length of the day.” We owe the stable, 60-minute hour to the Greeks, via “the sexagesimal notation of the Mesopotamians.” From the ancient Egyptian calendar to modern radiometric dating, Richet’s book delivers an eye-opening exploration of the history of man’s quest for time, giving us a chance to truly appreciate how far our knowledge—and our planet—have come. . . .

Read more »

Review: Cheney and Seyfarth, Baboon Metaphysics

August 8, 2007
By
Review: Cheney and Seyfarth, Baboon Metaphysics

. . .

Read more »

Search for books and authors